Report: East Coast Is Global 'Hot Spot' for Climbing Sea Levels

Sunday, 24 Jun 2012 02:36 PM

 

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
|  A   A  
  Copy Shortlink
From Cape Hatteras, N.C., to just north of Boston, sea levels are rising much faster than they are around the globe, putting one of the world's most costly coasts in danger of flooding, government researchers report.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists call the 600-mile swath a "hot spot" for climbing sea levels caused by global warming. Along the region, the Atlantic Ocean is rising at an annual rate three times to four times faster than the global average since 1990, according to the study published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

It's not just a faster rate, but at a faster pace, like a car on a highway "jamming on the accelerator," said the study's lead author, Asbury Sallenger Jr., an oceanographer at the agency. He looked at sea levels starting in 1950, and noticed a change beginning in 1990.

Since then, sea levels have gone up globally about 2 inches. But in Norfolk, Va., where officials are scrambling to fight more frequent flooding, sea level has jumped a total of 4.8 inches, the research showed. For Philadelphia, levels went up 3.7 inches, and in New York City, it was 2.8 inches.

Climate change pushes up sea levels by melting ice sheets in Greenland and west Antarctica, and because warmer water expands.

Computer models long have projected higher levels along parts of the East Coast because of changes in ocean currents from global warming, but this is the first study to show that's already happened.

By 2100, scientists and computer models estimate that sea levels globally could rise as much as 3.3 feet. The accelerated rate along the East Coast could add about 8 inches to 11 inches more, Sallenger said.

"Where that kind of thing becomes important is during a storm," Sallenger said. That's when it can damage buildings and erode coastlines.

On the West Coast, a National Research Council report released Friday projects an average 3-foot rise in sea level in California by the year 2100, and 2 feet in Oregon and Washington. The land mass north of the San Andreas Fault is expected to rise, offsetting the rising sea level in those two states.

The USGS study suggests the Northeast would get hit harder because of ocean currents. When the Gulf Stream and its northern extension slow down, the slope of the seas changes to balance against the slowing current. That slope then pushes up sea levels in the Northeast. It is like a see-saw effect, Sallenger theorizes.

Scientists believe that with global warming, the Gulf Stream and other ocean currents are slowing and will slow further, Sallenger said.

Jeff Williams, a retired USGS expert who wasn't part of the study, and Stefan Rahmstorf, a professor of ocean physics at the Potsdam Institute in Germany, said the study does a good job of making the case for sea level rise acceleration.

Margaret Davidson, director of the Coastal Services Center for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Charleston, S.C., said the implications of the new research are "huge when you think about it. Somewhere between Maryland and Massachusetts, you've got some bodaciously expensive property at risk."

Sea level projections matter in coastal states because flood maps based on those predictions can result in restrictions on property development and affect flood insurance rates.

Those estimates became an issue in North Carolina recently when the Legislature proposed using historic figures to calculate future sea levels, rejecting higher rates from a state panel of experts. The USGS study suggests an even higher level than the panel's estimate for 2100.

The North Carolina proposal used data from University of Florida professor Robert Dean, who had found no regional differences in sea level rise. Dean said he can't argue with the results from Sallenger's study showing accelerating sea level rise in the region, but he said it's more likely to be from natural cycles. Sallenger said there is no evidence to support that claim.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Country
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
 
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
Top Stories
You May Also Like

Krauthammer: GOP Must Push Its Agenda After Taking Senate

Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 22:07 PM

Republicans have 3-1 odds of taking over the Senate, and they need to use that power to push their agenda, conservative  . . .

Wyoming Gay Couples Get Marriage Licenses

Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 22:03 PM

Wyoming has become the latest state to allow same-sex unions, bringing the wave of legalizations to a place where the 19 . . .

Alveda King: Obama Proves Skin-Color Voting Doesn't Help Blacks

Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 21:13 PM

Alveda King, niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is at sharp odds with the Rev. Al Sharpton about which political  . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved